The Doltone House, one of Sydney’s iconic hospitality brands, celebrated its 50th Anniversary on the 25th October 2019 with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque by The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister of Australia in the presence of The Hon. Mark Speakman SC MP, Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Councillor Carmelo Pesce, Mayor of Sutherland Shire along with parliamentarians, local councillors, close business friends and family members. Its success story celebrated immigration in Australia, family values, business ethics and professionalism and community engagement in memory of Frank Anthony Stubbs and Biaggio Signorelli.
From a single venue at Sylvania Waters, it expanded to prestigious centres at Jones Bay Wharf, Darling Island, Hyde Park, Marconi, and Australian Technology Park and over 30 event spaces. It started as the realisation of a dream of Dolly and Tony Stubbs in 1969 which after 25 years was continued on by the Signorelli family.
Doltone House remains a family-owned and operated business run by three siblings: Paul Signorelli, Executive Chairman; Anna Cesarano, Chief Executive Officer and Nina Milazzo, Chief Operating Officer.
A migrant story
The Signorelli family traces its humble beginnings as Italian immigrants in Australia. The 19-year-old Biaggio Signorelli arrived in Sydney in 1954 from Sicily with a single suitcase. He worked initially at Darling Harbour docks unloading fruit and vegetables and then at a greengrocer’s at Sydney’s lower north shore.
After 10 years, despite Biaggio’s difficulty in speaking English, he bought his own fruit shop in Lakemba. At the age of 32, he married Fina with whom he had three children, Nina, Paul, and Anna. The Lakemba fruit shop is the beginning of Biaggio’s successful food enterprise where his children’s family values and entrepreneurial skills were originally nurtured.
In 1988, the Signorelli family opened one of the first local fresh food emporium, Mother Nature’s Fruit World in Blakehurst. Being exposed to the wholesale hospitality market, the family expanded its business to catering weddings with the purchase of the Clarendon Ballroom in Riverwood in 1973.
Even with the promising business future ahead, Biaggio generously contributed to the community. He donated funds in 1972 to form the Sant’antonio da Padova Protettore di Poggioreale to assist Italians in Australia.
Just after two years of purchasing Doltone House in 1995, it became a pioneer in the wedding and catering industry. Its exclusive catering for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Media Centre and the Florida World Pavillion paved the way to more domestic and international business events which over 50 years garnered over 50 awards and recognitions.
Despite being diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer in 2007, Biaggio contributed to the Bernie Banton Foundation, as well as hospitals and other charities undertaking research and patient support.
In 2008, at the age of 70, Biaggio died from asbestos-related cancer known to have been contracted in his early years in Australia after constant exposure to asbestos while working on night shifts in a factory making transformers for TV sets. The Biaggio Signorelli Foundation was established in 2010 in support of mesothelioma patients’ care, aid and research which to date has raised $2 million.
In the same year, a life-size bronze sculpture fronting its Darling Island venue created by Terrance Plowright entitled “Life from a Suitcase” was unveiled by then-Governor Dame Marie Bashir in Biaggio’s honour.
The sculpture was located on the very spot where Biaggio first set down his suitcase as a teen Italian migrant. It was a Sydney Reserve Passenger Terminal until 1994 where many immigrants in the 1950’s and 1960’s first stood on Australian soil.
The cast in bronze is Biaggio and Fina Signorelli and their seven grandchildren. In 2018, Biaggio was inducted in the NSW Multicultural Honour Roll for his significant and exemplary contribution to the community.
The Philippine Times (PT) is pleased to share the insights of the Signorelli family (SF) as migrants to multicultural Australia and on the significant milestones of Doltone House over the last 50 years as follows:
PT: What do you think is the importance of family values and closely-knit ties amongst family members towards a certain goal or vision?
SF: There is something special about family businesses. Around 70 per cent of Australia’s 2.1 million businesses are family-owned making it an important part of the Australian business landscape.
For us, our values are inspired by the legacy of our parents and we live them out by being open, providing excellent service and warm hospitality. We also have a strong philanthropic drive, which sees us support about 150 charities including our own The Biaggio Signorelli Foundation.
The feedback we receive is that people know we really do care about their events, we aim to please and are in it for the long-term, this is because as a family business we have real skin in the game and it is more than just a business to us, it is an extension of who we are as a family.
PT: What message/s will you impart to fellow Australians who are generally migrants like your family in relation to cultural assimilation, integration, and preservation?
SF: Starting a new life in a new country is challenging on an emotional, physical, financial and social level. We are shaped by our experiences and culture and it can be isolating to come to a new country, especially if the language and way of life is different.
However, there are huge opportunities in Australia, but they require hard work, understanding, resilience and a willingness to learn new ways of doing things. Many migrants are resourceful, passionate and successful because they use their reasons for migration as fuel to inspire their new life. We know that when you are true to who you are, and open to others, you will be able to establish a successful life in Australia.
We are a living example of a successful migrant family not just in business but on a personal front. We can all make our mark in Australia!
PT: What do you think are the factors that contributed to the success of Doltone House?
SF: We as a family have always had ambitious plans for the business. However, these plans are always based around one thing – delivering exceptional, personalised service.
When we started our focus was on the brides and grooms, then the client. And that razor-sharp focus on customer service and delivering an exceptional product is what has made us successful.
We work in an environment where there is no second chance, no redo, so everything we do is about getting it right. It’s also about creating an environment for clients and staff which enables an open consultative, inclusive and fun place to be. Our clients know they can reach out to us personally, they know we absolutely care about every single event. Our personal approach and openness with clients have contributed greatly to our success. Our business is like a marriage – it’s sacred!
The unveiling of Doltone House commemorative plaque
in memory of Frank Anthony Stubbs and Biaggio Signorelli
(L-R) Nina Signorelli, Paul Signorelli, The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister of Australia, Dolly Stubbs, Fina Signorelli and Nina Signorelli
(Photo Credit: Doltone House)